Station: [6] Jozef Israëls: "Little Jan. The First Step", 1860

  • Museum Kunst der Westküste

The 1860 painting Little Jan. The First Step by the Dutch painter Jozef Israëls shows a young fisherman returning home to his family. Looking restrained and worn out by the deprivations of work, the father is crouching barefoot on the clayey ground in the front yard of a modest house, holding out his arms towards his young son who seems to have learned to make his first steps during the father’s absence. The touching encounter is integrated into the village environment through the inclusion in the background of a woman who is absorbed in her work and has spread out laundry to dry on the grass. In this early work Israëls reveals himself as a close observer of existential human action and a master of an academically trained style of fine painting. Before him, the great French realist Jean-François Millet addressed this genre-like subject which was then repeatedly taken up by the painters of the Hague School. Flourishing in The Hague in the late nineteenth century, this artists’ group contributed significantly to the revival of the natural landscape and genre painting, which was very much in line with the spirit of the realism of seventeenth-century Dutch painting.